Blue Jays Pitching Enough for the AL East Crown ?

Blue Jays

The Blue Jays Achilles heel this whole season has been arms, be they bullpen arms or starting arms. 

This comes as no surprise:  entering the 2021 campaign, it was apparent the lineup would produce, but would the pitching be enough was always the question. 

If there is any silver lining, the 41-38 Blue Jays may make some pre-trade deadline splashes to add to the bullpen.  According to General Manager Ross Atkins, speaking in a Zoom media availability on June 20th, “It’s what we’re focused on. We’ll continue working on that.” 

In fact, since Atkins spoke with the media, they have made some worthy bullpen pickups in Adam Cimber, the sidearmer from the Miami Marlins, and righty Jacob Barnes from the Mets. 

Cimber, the better of the two, has put up some substantial numbers this season, pitching to a 2.88 ERA in 34 innings pitched as well as adding 21 strikeouts. He has been known to pitch more to contact throughout his major league career but offers the Jays a new look out of the bullpen with his semi-submarine mechanics, something they didn’t have prior to his arrival. 

As for Barnes, he had a rough start to his 2021 campaign sporting a 6.27 ERA in 18 and two-thirds. But he has been able to average a strikeout per inning which can help add some much-needed depth to the pen.

Outside help isn’t the only reinforcement this Jays team will receive in the coming weeks. Setup man Rafael Dolis is joining the triple-A Buffalo squad on a rehab assignment Friday, according to Jay’s manager Charlie Montoyo.

Dolis hasn’t had a great start to this season. He has been on and off the IL, but if he can get back to his 2020 self where he was the top Jays reliever pitching to a 1.50 ERA in 24 innings, he could provide a significant boost to this squad. 

Ryan Borucki is someone else who Charlie Montoyo would undoubtedly love to have back as a late-inning option. The power arm had a 0.90 WHIP and 9.5 K/9 before entering the IL, and was used almost exclusively as a late-inning guy in front of closer Jordan Romano. 

Borucki will throw a live BP early next week before heading out to rehab, so that’s a sign that things are pointing upwards for the young lefty.

As for Julian Merryweather, he may be the biggest question mark on this team and certainly, when healthy, is one of the best arms on the squad. Some may remember the 6-4 righthander from his dominant opening day closeout against the Yankees, but since then has been sidelined since April 14th with a left oblique strain. 

Merryweather has above-average stuff. His four-seam fastball averages 99mph and has a natural tail to it and, on top of that, he mixes in a Changeup (81mph), Slider (89mph) and Curve (81mph). That’s an 18 mph dip between his fastball and his curve/changeup. Prior to his shutdown, he had pitched four scoreless with seven strikeouts. His stuff has never been the question; it’s just been his health. 

As for his current status, Merryweather will continue his throwing progression, advancing to a regular bullpen session and then to a live batting practice session and finally, a rehab assignment. So he can be expected back anytime after the All-Star break if everything goes well. 

The bullpen, currently led by closer Jordan Romano, has the chance to improve tremendously considering the IL guys due to come back and the potential of deadline trades. At its current state, though, it is not good enough to get them out of games late and needs to be better. If Romano, who has had three recent saves where two innings were required of him, has to continue that, he could gas out, and that’s the last thing Montoyo, and his squad wants. 

Blue Jays Starters 

The Blue Jays starting Pitching, on the other hand, has been one of their stronger points throughout the year, especially considering the fact they just have to keep this top 5 offense in games to compete. 

Hyun-Jin Ryu, The team’s ace, has had a very productive season holding a 3.41 ERA and 1.10 WHIP in his 15 starts. But his performances as of late have been a cause for concern. In June, Ryu had a 5.35 ERA and a 1.33 WHIP.  This is out of the ordinary for the lefty as he has been known throughout his career to be extremely consistent. 

That held true Thursday as Ryu took on the Mariners at the start of the new month and looked just like his June self: he allowed four earned on seven hits in just four innings. It could just be that he is going through a slump and will find his groove, which is most likely the case. But if he can’t get back to his former self, that could be a worrisome sign for this staff.

As for their number two, Robbie Ray, he has been exceptional this year, having his best season since his 2017 All-Star campaign. Ray is currently pitching to a 3.43 ERA in 15 starts, posting a 6-3 record as well as an impressive 11.7 K/9. 

Moving forward, the Jays will need the power lefty to continue having an exceptional 2021 campaign as they still have 29 games against division rivals Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays. 

As for the rest of the rotation in Steven Matz, Alek Manoah and Ross Stripling, they have been doing a great job as of late in keeping this team in games. After a rough start, Stripling has had a bit of a resurgence as of late, pitching to a 3.18 ERA last month and a 2.45 ERA in his previous two starts.

Alek Manoah is the interesting wild card. There is no question the former West Virginia pitcher has plus stuff. Prior to getting called up to the big leagues, Manoah only pitched nine times in professional baseball, so he is still very fresh to the scene. Six of those starts were in single-A Vancouver, where he had a 2.45 ERA and an eye-popping 14.3 K/9. After that, the 2020 season was lost to COVID-19, so he just had the developmental camp in Rochester to work on his craft.  

Fast-forward to the 2021 season, he started in AAA Buffalo, where he only had three starts but made the most of them with a 0.50 ERA, three wins and a 13.9 K/9. 

So far, his start in the Major Leagues has been a bit rocky, as expected. He has pitched some gems like his first start in New York, where he went six strong, allowing no runs adding seven strikeouts.  However, he has also had some bad starts, like his one against Baltimore on June 19th, where he was only able to go three and a third allowing five. 

Despite all that, he still has a 3.34 ERA and 10 K/9, so he has still been more than solid for the Blue Jays rotation. If he can continue on the path of his good starts and wean out the odd down night, the Blue Jays could really use his arm down the stretch. 

Starters aren’t the biggest need for this team but is still an option to consider come trade deadline time. The team is open to adding more, hinted GM Ross Atkins but also alluded to the market being a bit dry. “There is not a ton of it,” said Atkins in a Zoom media availability when asked about the starters market. 

Even if the Blue Jays aren’t able to add any more arms to the rotation, what they currently have should be enough.  There is even the chance that the currently injured Nate Pearson (Toronto’s top pitching prospect) will make his way back if everything works out, which would be a huge boost. 

The same can’t be said for the bullpen, though. The Jays will need to add some arms in the coming weeks if they want to compete for the division and a playoff berth come October. So, the hope is that the injured will get healthy at the right time. All in all, considering all the games that have been blown in late innings, 41-38 is not a bad spot to be sitting at coming down the stretch. 

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About Mitchell Martin 5 Articles
Mitchell Martin is a young studying journalist currently enrolled in the centennial college post-grad sports journalism program. Prior to that, he acquired a broadcast journalism diploma. Budding writer looking for experience in all fields of journalism, also appearing on live streams and other sights within the company. Mitchell covers football and baseball and also is a contributor at a hometown site called the Toronto observer. Grew up in a town called Pickering just outside of Toronto, Canada.